It looks like the rivalry between Xiaomi and its home-bred competitor LeTV is all set to get even hotter with the launch of Xiaomi Mi5 in India next month.
Xiaomi has sent out invites that it will bring its flagship, the Mi5, on March 31, which means that the device will hit India before LeTV’s upcoming high-end competitor, the Le 2 Pro.
Xiaomi has sent out invites to the media for the event that starts at 2:30 PM this Thursday, which means flash sales will start on or around April 5.
This is the first shot fired in an upcoming war between Xiaomi and LeEco in the high-end space, and going by specifications of the two competing models — LeEco 2 Pro may have a clear edge over the Mi5.
For example, unlike the modest 5.15-inch full-HD display on Mi5, the LeEco model comes with a bigger display with twice as many pixels as well as more powerful camera. The battle started when, two months ago, LeEco introduced its value-for-money phone Le 1s in India at a breathtaking price of Rs 10,990, forcing Xiaomi to follow on by pricing the Redmi Note 3 at just Rs 11,999.
Though Xiaomi’s pricing helped the vendor garner some goodwill from fans and prevent LeTV from running away with the market, things have not been very smooth for the brand as it has struggled to deliver the 3 GB variant in decent quantities.
For Xiaomi Mi5 too, pricing will continue to play a crucial role in how the device does in the market.
For example, with a higher than expected price, the Mi4 was among the most disappointing models for the company in its second biggest market.
When the Mi5 was launched in China, it has three variants — two with glass backs and a pro version with ceramic backside.
The starting price of Mi5 was Rs 20,500 or 1,999 Yuan for the 32 GB version, while the 64 GB variant was priced Rs 3100 higher and the pro version was priced Rs 30,700.
Since taxes and tariffs in India are higher, prices in the country are usually about 10-15% higher as well, which suggests a starting price of at least Rs 22,000-22,500 for the 32 GB version and Rs 25,000-25,500 for the 64 GB model.
However, there is a chance that Xiaomi would sell the phone in India at the same price as it does in China, as happened in case of Redmi Note 3. However, in this case, stocks may be harder to come by.
TOUGH COMPETITION FROM LE 2 PRO
The launch of the flagship series from LeEco and Xiaomi will transform the flagship market in India much like the Mi3 did two years ago, or like the LeTV Le 1s did to the mid-range market two months ago.
When the 1s was launched, comparable offerings from rivals — such as HTC Desire 828, OnePlus 2, Nexus 5X and Xperia M5 — cost about twice as much or more.
Not surprisingly, the super-value-for-money smartphones from LeEco and Xiaomi have managed to capture the attention — and the money share — of mid-range consumers in India.
However, when it came to the flagship configurations — 4 GB of RAM, Quad-HD displays and powerful Cortex A72-based processors — low-cost Chinese players have been largely absent and the field is still dominated by Samsung, Sony, HTC and so on.
This will now be a thing of past with the entry of the Mi5 and Le 2 Pro into the field.
That said, based purely on specifications — the Le 2 Pro and Mi5 are not exactly comparable, as the LeEco model clearly comes out on top in aspects like display resolution and camera.
The Le 2 Pro comes with a 5.7-inch Quad-HD display — which 22.5% bigger than the screen on Xiaomi Mi5 — and also boasts of a 21-MP camera — both of which are missing on Xiaomi Mi5.
The base LeEco model also comes with 64 GB of memory — twice that of the Mi5 — plus Dolby audio, 3.1 Ah battery, USB Type C and an 8 MP camera in addition to the main 21 MP camera.
Like the Mi5, the Le 2 Pro is also powered by the new Snapdragon 820 processor coupled with 4 GB of DDR4 RAM that promises to bench above 100,000 on Antutu.
The Snapdragon 820 — which is found inside both Xiaomi Mi5 and LeEco 2 Pro — is twice as powerful as last year’s premium chipset — Snapdragon 810 — and consumes less power due to its 14 nm manufacturing technology.
In addition, the 2Pro won’t be the only model being launched in India by the company next month. It will also bring in the new Le 2s, the successor to 1s, at an estimated price of around Rs 15,000.
MI5 – CAN XIAOMI DELIVER?
A crucial factor to watch out for will be the ability of Xiaomi to not just price the model attractively, but also sell it.
Against a demand numbering in the lakhs for Redmi Note 3 (32 GB), the company has sold only a few thousand in the first three flash sales — possibly well below 10,000 units.
As a result, more than the price, what is crucial for Xiaomi is how many units of the Mi5 it can deliver to India. Going by its trackrecord in the country, expecting more than 30,000 units per week is probably futile.
However, given that it’s a slightly more premium product compared to the Redmi Note 3, even 30,000 units per week will be able to keep the demand satiated. But can the company deliver that many at least? Only time will tell.
Irrespective of who wins the battle of the flagships, one person who will definitely be on the winning side is the Indian consumer. With the ‘low price’ revolution coming to the high-end market, MNC brands too will be forced to reduce their margins and offer their galaxy of phones at slightly more affordable prices.